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Identifying the source and accessing the spatial variations, contamination status, conservation threats of heavy metal pollution in the river waters of Sunderban biosphere reserve, India

ABSTRACT

This study emphasizes on identification of source and accessing the spatial variation of dissolved heavy metals (Cu, Cd, Fe, Ni, Pb and Zn) in the rivers of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve India, the UNESCO world heritage site. ANOVA (Analysis of Variance), PCA (Principal Component Analysis) as well as FA (Factor Analysis) are used for assessing the significant difference in means of metals concentration among the sites and understanding the sources of these pollutants. Three principal components with cumulative variance of 32, 55, and 73 %, show that Pb, Ni and Cd are closely associated with each other indicating an anthropogenic origin of these metals. Heavy metal evaluation index (HEI) values indicate that areas close to densely populated sites are affected by elevated metals concentration due to anthropogenic activities. The ratio between the concentration of Cd, Ni and Pb in sites and the maximum respective permissible limit for these metals for conserved habitat is Log10 normalized to understand the threats of these pollutants over the distributaries of Sundarbans. Pb pollution is prevalent in the areas that rely on the fossil fuel-operated boats, for transport, whereas higher Cd concentration is found in the areas dependent on rechargeable batteries to meet their energy demand. So these anthropogenic activities and mal-practices may be responsible for the heavy metal pollution in this region. The study concludes that gradual increase in metal pollution in river water due to anthropogenic activities, particularly Pb and Cd, could have a negative impact on the conserved flora and fauna of this ecosystem.